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Feature article

The Nightingale Model:

Procurement of architects by architects

Nightingale is a triple bottom line development model that aims to create environmentally, socially and financially sustainable apartments. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide quality urban housing at an affordable price by simplifying both the development process and the building itself.

At Breathe Architecture we constantly consider how to define the role of the architect. We believe that architects have an obligation to greater society to protect the interests of people in their interaction with the built environment, both their financial and their experiential interaction. Architects need to stand up for those that the industry is ignoring. The status quo development model is to build meaningless apartments designed to investor specifications for maximum yield with little or no regard for the people who will live there or the impact of the building on the environment.

Our cities deserve beautiful, affordable, well-built apartments designed for real life. At present, most developers are not delivering this and as long as their current formula remains profitable, they have no incentive to do so.

The Nightingale Model seeks to offer an alternative to business-as-usual development. An architect led housing model that creates well-designed, affordable housing while making a fair and reasonable (but not excessive) return on investment. The model seeks to redefine the meaning and quality of apartment living, and foster a new housing procurement method that is easily replicated and beneficial for the city.

There are three parties to this model: architects, ethical investors and purchasers.



Each project is led by an architect, who chooses to use the Nightingale Model. They bring together their ethical investors, assemble their consultant team and consult directly with the purchasers.



Each project is funded by approximately 25 ethical investors who each contribute $100,000. To date these have been predominantly architects, past clients and small investors with a desire to contribute to the idea. The investors are known to the architect leading the project, or have approached the architect and expressed interest in investing. To stay within Australian Securities and Investments Commission requirements various conditions need to be met in relation to the number and financial sophistication of these investors.

While the banks finance construction, the investors provide the financial equity to fund the project from the purchase of land, the engagement of consultants through to apartment sales prior to construction.



Since the inception of the first Nightingale Model project, more than 500 registrations of interest in purchasing an apartment have been lodged through the model’s website.

Purchasers are engaged early, they are surveyed, and their needs and preferences influence the design outcome.

One hundred percent of apartments are sold prior to construction commencement, all to purchasers who intend to be owner-occupiers. The model seeks to help first home-buyers secure a home within Melbourne’s inner ring, close to family, friends, schools and employment. The sales contracts, along with the equity in the land, then secure finance for construction.

The Commons by Breathe Architecture.

photographer: Andrew Wuttke

The Commons by Breathe Architecture.

photographer: Andrew Wuttke

The Commons by Breathe Architecture.

photographer: Andrew Wuttke

The first Nightingale model project has shown that the majority of these purchasers are young professionals, couples and families who want to live in an apartment community. Many of these have been saving their deposits for years. Prior to the Nightingale model, they had not been able to find a new apartment building that they wanted to live in, or indeed an apartment that was designed for anything other than a relatively short term stay.

How does the model aim to provide affordable, yet better quality and more environmentally sensitive apartments, than those on the market? Build costs and environmental impacts are lowered through an architecture of reductionism and centralisation. We seek to implement an ideology of simplicity. We envision an architecture governed by humanity and functionality, by need rather than by desire.

We aim to provide simple, quality apartments that are liveable, sustainable and affordable. We will utilise a simplified delivery model that is transparent and sustainable.

This is achieved through an exercise in reduction. The omission of basement car parking, air-conditioning, second bathrooms, real estate agents, display suites, marketing and advertising teams reduce both the construction cost and the project cost. By taking out all that is unnecessary we can increase quality and reduce cost simultaneously. These benefits are passed directly on to the home owner.

Sharing infrastructure through centralised systems such as solar PV, embedded networks, solar hot water, hydronic heating, rainwater harvesting, and laundry facilities, will decrease construction costs, decrease ongoing living costs for residents and reduce space and resources consumed by replicated services.

Nightingale model projects are designed not only to reduce the carbon footprint for their occupants but also their ongoing living costs. Nightingale residents will have lower utility and communication costs through centralised, shared services.

Nightingale V1.0 is titling one of the ground floor commercial tenancies to the owners’ corporation. The rental income from this tenancy will subsidise owners’ corporation fees paid by the residents, making the building cheaper to live in over time.

More than apartment buildings, Nightingale Model projects are about designing and facilitating vertical communities. Shared public spaces and rooftop gardens encourage individuals to engage and interact with one-another, creating a more connected living space and an environment that allows the residents to settle in.

Three architecture practices are currently engaged in Nightingale Model projects. Many more architects have come on board as investors in these projects, and many of these are working towards their own projects. We encourage you to join with one of the twelve or so architects that are already involved, or lead your own project.

You don’t need to know how to do everything, you just need to know how to assemble the right team. Each project has engaged development managers, project managers, lawyers, and accountants along with our usual list of sub-consultants to handle end to end project delivery.

Finally, this is not an exclusive club. We apologise if it has seemed that way. Far from it, we just haven’t been able to talk to you all individually. We implore any architect who wants to make a difference to housing quality and affordability to register their interest or contact us at

As they say, ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.’

Be the solution.

Current Nightingale Model projects:

  • Nightingale V1.0 Breathe Architecture (Brunswick site)
  • Nightingale V2.0 Six Degrees Architects (Fairfield site)
  • Nightingale V3.0 Andrew Maynard Architects (site acquisition phase)

Future Nightingale Model projects likely to be underway in the near to medium future by:

  • Clare Cousins
  • MRTN Architects + Nest Architects
  • Wolverige Architects
  • Architecture Architecture
  • BKK
  • Kennedy Nolan Architects
  • Matt Gibson Architecture and Design
  • Scale Architecture (Sydney)
  • Phooey Architecture

Architects can request the case study information from